Havrilesky’s grand pronouncements are so sweeping and so numerous... they quickly cease to arouse strong feelings of assent or disagreement ... the self-help framework — the stentorian assertions of diagnosis and cure — does Havrilesky a disservice. She can be a warm and funny writer, a savvy close reader, idiosyncratic, urbane. Her advice column stands out not so much for its practical guidance but for the empathy in which she wraps her message of self-empowerment — and for its comic riffs ... When Havrilesky ditches the forced affinity of 'we' for the more modest claims of 'I,' she has some poignant things to say. She is good at wresting fresh nuance from familiar touchstones, and arranging them into incisive, opinionated narratives.
She updates the columnist’s stock Q&A format with a collection of more roving, labile essays. Not quite venturing 'advice' per se, but brimming with the author’s warmly diagnostic and incisive voice, the pieces crystallize as potent blends of cultural critique, memoir, and anecdote, which take a scalpel to the inured surface of modern American life.
Despite the saturation of books about the present, What If This Were Enough? feels cathartic ... Havrilesky's book is hilarious and pulls no punches, and its cohesiveness feels fresh ... All of her advice happens to crystallize...
... In this quick-witted collection of essays, advice columnist Havrilesky pointedly asks whether it is possible to be satisfied without having everything our world of excess offers us ... [Havrilesky] presents some more personal stories about love and loss that tantalizingly offer a glimpse into a more grounded way of life, leavening the dark atmosphere with humor and hope.
... Havrilesky is expert at associating the feelings derived from these elements and showing how they feed her—and our—quest for things that don’t fulfill. Her book offers a reminder of just how deep our denial goes, and it suggests that the common ways we receive our messages today preclude our best chances at seeing through it ... In this book, Havrilesky is, at heart, an aesthete and for her, the shining beacon of Art is where denial gets swept away.
Though there seems to be no escape from the world Havrilesky paints for her readers, she makes a point of offering a line of inquiry through which they can develop their own perspectives on society today, carving out their own space in the process. A fun, often insightful read for digital fatalists.
These incisive essays by New York magazine columnist Havrilesky... invite readers into the contradictions of upper-middle-class American life ... [Havrilesky] wants Americans to 'wake up to the unbelievable gift of being alive,' even though it means facing anomie, despair, and all the scary emotions that are easier avoided. It’s a message she relates with insight, wit, and terrific prose.